Last Updated on October 3, 2023 by Editorial Team
Response to intervention, or RTI, is an approach developed to identify special needs learners. The earliest mentions of the process go back to the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), amongst others in the list of special laws. While the RTI offers a solid medium to approach learning before failure, as early identification and prevention are prioritized, students with all needs have benefited from it.
Regardless of learning disabilities, approximately 6% of school-going children face math difficulties. And there is no doubt that children not integrated into the tier 2 and 3 programs still need RTI interventions for math. The rigorous, intensive, and probing practices featured in the RTI framework make it a need of the hour.
Teachers having more time, better progress tracking tools, and individualized intervention plans, RTI is an excellent apparatus in the hands of a teacher. Even though there are no strict guidelines about the intervention strategy, most teachers follow the 3-tier RTI interventions. So, below, the blog mentions tier-wise strategies that teachers can employ for mathematics.
Effective RTI intervention strategies for math
Maths has always been a complex subject for all students. Amongst children affected by learning disabilities, a substantial proportion needs individual support in math, with special needs educators spending a significant part of their instructional engagement in teaching math. Hence, there is a strong need for RTI intervention in math.
There have been several differences in which RTI interventions have been implicated. However, there is some universality to the tiers of intervention. Almost all schools and educational organizations agree on having three tiers to the RTI Intervention. Hence, for mathematics, strategies are explained under each level.
1. Tier 1 strategies
Tier 1 of RTI involves students being given instructions about the subject. The emphasis on scientifically-based and differentiated instruction is the cornerstone of the tier 1 RTI intervention strategy. Tier 1 is just about teaching the core material accurately and adequately. Teaching methods like game-based, active, and problem-based learning can be more appropriate for math.
- Conduct a Generic Math Screening/Evaluation
To successfully deliver on Tier 1 of RTI, the first strategy can be understanding the general level of understanding of the class. This strategy will give the teacher a brief idea of the starting point. Screening tools that are curriculum-based measurement provide a good description of what the student has learned and their problem areas. As a generic math screening is conducted, the teacher can easily find the student average of the entire class.
- Introduce a mathematical concept
The mathematical concept’s introduction and the accumulated understanding must be through oral, written, and visual depictions. For instance, when teaching real numbers, teachers can use verbal and written formats to make the students understand the types of numbers. However, using number lines adds to their visual understanding of real numbers and their placement.
- Engage in Mid-Unit Conversations
Once the concept has been introduced in the class, and the educator starts employing active learning to engage the class in understanding real numbers, the teacher needs to appear approachable. The educator can take a round and involve themselves in conversations about doubts and difficulties with a group of students. This way, a more supervised and active classroom is created. Mid-unit discussions will allow reserved students to walk up during the end or after the class for clarification or help.
2. Tier 2 Strategies
Moving to tier 2 of RTI implies focusing on targets needing improvements. By the time tier one strategy has made its way into the classroom, the teacher gets hold of almost every student’s mathematical capabilities or at least can identify who needs extra help. Thus, the main focus of tier 2 strategies is on narrowing the view of the classroom, i.e., small group creation and adjusting teaching instructions per students’ specific needs.
- Evaluate Learning
Evaluations are necessary for all subjects, but weekly evaluations must be required in math. A teacher can get pretty creative with assessments, such as having quizzes or blackboard activities. Even though group activities can help engage and understand the class, as tier 2 strategies are more focused on the specific needs of learners, a one-to-one evaluation is needed.
- Set Goals for the group/specific students
Setting attainable goals for the class and specific students who need support is essential after evaluation and must be addressed. These goals could be student-specific, timeline-oriented, and methodology experimentation. For instance, once the teacher identifies that specific students have a problem plotting fractions on the number line, they can specifically use an approach to help these students in a week. After the goals are set, the same interventions need to be applied, such as introducing the concept, ensuring its understanding, guiding students in the application part, and providing quick feedback. It is advised in all tier 2 intervention strategies that the timeline must be at most two months. However, if the students still need to learn, it’s essential to move to tier 3.
- Experimental Evaluation
In the goal-setting strategy, the material is explained in a way that matches the student’s mathematical abilities. Once that has been identified, the teacher can move on to regular progress tracking. As the student learns through rigorous practice, the teacher can assess the student’s performance under stable (primary) conditions and experiment with different materials and problems (advanced).
3. Tier 3 Strategies
By the time a teacher naturally progresses through tier 3 strategies, formal evaluations have been conducted. This evaluation gives a quantitative look into tier 1 and 2 plan success. If the problem persists or becomes even more challenging, teachers must level up to tier 3 strategies. Tier 3 is intensive and highly evaluative. The interventionist sits with the student to discover their problem areas and fill these learning gaps.
- Track the Progress of Students
A tier 3 strategy aims at digging a little deeper. Students’ progress reports, feedback from teachers and parents, and direct involvement with the kid can answer many questions about where things went downhill. Attention to more minor details, like class tests and mid-term exams, can provide information regarding the concepts and units on which the student needs clarity.
- Conduct one-on-one doubt clearance
Once it’s ascertained that the child needs more than just homogeneous grouping and rigorous practice sessions, the one-on-one strategy of tier 3 needs to be applied without a second thought; however, one-on-one isn’t just limited to teachers. Peer tutoring, as a method, can be used to make the child more comfortable with the learning process.
- Update oneself with newer technologies and strategies
The entire community of educators is always getting up to date with newer methods to help children learn better. Even though their intentions are in the right place, the need for more awareness about the latest technologies and strategies puts them in a difficult position. Hence, catching up with fellow educators, seeking guidance from interventionists, and asking school management to be stocked with essential resources, are how the tier strategies can be better implemented.
Effectiveness of RTI in maths
Maths is a core subject and hence, has lifelong implications. Several researchers have studied the impact of RTI in math and have ascertained different reasons for the deliberate use of RTI in the learning of math. The procedural nature of math and its reliance on a solid foundation to acquire new information is why RTI is needed.
RTI has been a game-changer for students diagnosed with learning disabilities; however, even more, significant benefits were realized when the framework broadened to include students of different needs. The study by Eğitim ve Bilim found that students struggling in math were not special needs students but just victims of the standard teaching methods that couldn’t accommodate their needs. Thus, RTI has been very successful in the early identification and intervention of struggling students.
Math needs a strong foundation, and RTI works best in creating this solid foundation. Through RTI, students struggling with math can receive targeted and intensive support. They can get personalized assistance at school and a friendly and understanding environment at home.
And with the strategies mentioned above, teachers can both keep a check and better supplement the student with their specific needs. At the same time, teachers and parents can use motivational tools like quotes to help students remain encouraged.
- Ölmez, Yusuf & Argün, Ziya. (2017). Effectiveness of RTI Model on Math Learning of 5th Grade Students with Special Educational Needs. TED EĞİTİM VE BİLİM. 42. 10.15390/EB.2017.6453.